March 25, 2004 3:15 PM PST
Device puts both hands on the PC wheel
3Dconnexion is selling a variety of input devices that provide a left-hand complement to the traditional computer mouse. The devices control the position of on-screen objects in design programs such as Adobe Systems' Photoshop and the Maya 3D modeling application from Alias. That enables designers to work without constantly togging between "view" and "create" modes.
"It's a much more natural way of working," Niraj Swarup, a vice president of marketing at 3Dconnexion, said between demonstrations of the technology at the Game Developers Conference here. "Things that were separated are now done in parallel."
Logitech, one of the leading makers of computer mice and other types of input devices, spun off 3Dconnexion three years ago to capitalize on technology developed to control robot arms on a NASA space shuttle. The company produces four types of pointing devices, with names such as SpaceMouse and SpaceBall, all intended to work in concert with a standard computer mouse or track ball.
Each device, which acts somewhat like a small joystick with more three-dimensional range, is used to maneuver whatever object is on screen, leaving the mouse hand free for other tasks.
3Dconnexion's devices work only with those applications that have had drivers developed for them by 3Dconnexion. The company initially focused on drafting and engineering programs, including Autodesk's AutoCAD, but has lately branched out to include graphics design programs such as Photoshop and 3DS Max. There's even support for Microsoft Office, for those who want to push their spreadsheet jockeying to another level.
A SpaceMouse or similar device enables a designer to be much more productive and to reduce wrist strain by minimizing the number of menus they have to click through in order to work on a project, Swarup said. "If we can get you to use the other hand, which is sitting idle most of the time, you can be a lot more efficient," he said.
Swarup said it typically takes designers a couple days to become proficient with a 3Dconnexion device, which is why the company offers a free evaluation period. "We typically tell people it will take you a few days to really get accustomed to the process," he said. "If you let somebody use it for a week or so, they never give it up."
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